(Place de l’Indépendance in Bamako, Mali. Credit: Stuart Russell).

Screenshot from The Economist.

Our partner Accountability Lab was profiled in The Economist along with mention of GOV/LAB’s preliminary scoping research on the Integrity Idol program. The full article, “Can a reality TV show discourage corruption? Viewers from Nepal to Nigeria vote for the most honest civil servant”, is available online.

One common way of holding government officials accountable is to ‘name and shame’ them until they change their course of action. In today’s world, however, with 24-hour news and nonstop social media coverage, it’s often difficult to capture the public’s attention and gain enough public pressure for naming and shaming to work effectively. In addition to insufficient public pressure, a naming and shaming approach requires someone in government who is willing and capable of punishing officials who have been shamed, which isn’t always the case.

Tweet from Accountabily Lab’s Mali Country Director Moussa Kondo.

Accountability Lab, an international non-profit that uses creative strategies to make governments more responsive to their citizens, is taking a different approach. One of their flagship projects is Integrity Idol, an annual program operating in six countries including Liberia, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa. Integrity Idol seeks to celebrate – or ‘name and fame’ – good public officials with the objective of promoting a national discussion about civility and honesty in the bureaucracy.

To look at the impact of Integrity Idol, MIT GOV/LAB is supporting MIT Political Science doctoral student Stuart Russell to do fieldwork with Integrity Idol’s Mali office. Stuart is conducting interviews to better understand the reasons why Integrity Idol finalists are selected – and how their colleagues respond to that nomination (more to follow on our initial scoping trip).